2009 - %3, April

Friday Cocktail: Dash the Wolves, Splash of Dolphins, Jigger the Straw Bale House, Shake Over Ice

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 6:31 PM PDT
As Oscar Wilde said: Work is the curse of the drinking class.

Round 1: In Your Eye. The US Fish & Wildlife Service basically threw up its hands (again) on the issue of gray wolves and tossed their fate back into the temperamental ballcourt of the states of the West. Except for the state of Wyoming. Apparently Wyoming's thirst for wolf blood turns even the stomach of rancher and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Wyoming managed to slaughter wolves so fast after 2006's aborted delisting that they lost the privilege to kill any more under their own terms. Just yet.

I mean, seriously, Team Obama... Sarah Palin could hardly have shot a better bull's-eye from her Alaskan helicopter. The final rule removing federal protections for wolves was published yesterday in the Federal Register and will go into effect on May 4 when state wolf management laws take effect. So, run, Wolves, run. Meanwhile lawsuit engines are revving, including those of the Humane Society of the United States.

Round 2: ¡Salud!
A federal judge just kept alive a lawsuit that might just keep the Mexican wolf alive. US District Judge David Bury buried a motion by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to throw out a lawsuit regarding the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf—the subspecies of gray wolf exterminated in the Southwest since the 1930s. The feds reintroduced them in Arizona-New Mexico in 1998 and biologists hoped to have at least 100 in the wild by now and 18 breeding pairs. Instead we've got just 52 and only two breeding pairs. Why? Because ranchers keep killing them and even worse the frakkin USFWS trapped and shot 19 wolves in 2007. That's nearly three times the number of suspicious wolf deaths in 2008. Team Obama? Wake up.

The lawsuit by Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, and many others claims the USFWS is sitting on their lazy asses and relinquishing their powers to others. The lawsuit also challenges a perverted 3-strikes rule that calls for wolves to be permanently removed from the wild (huh?) or killed (oh…) if they prey on livestock three or more times within one year. Judge Bury is saying: Hang on there, pardner. Let's try this in court. Buy that man a drink.

Round 3: Sláinte! Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society announced the discovery of 6,000 rare Irrawaddy dolphins in Bangladesh. Prior to this announcement, dolphin populations in the area were feared to number in only the low 100s. In neighboring Burma, these dolphins fish cooperatively with humans, herding schools of fish toward boats and then benefiting from the relationship by easily preying on the fish cornered in the nets and from those falling out of the nets when the fishermen pull them from the water. I'll drink to that.

Round 4: Stirred but not shaken!
A greater than 7.6 magnitude simulated temblor did not knock down Darcey Donovan's straw bale house at the University Of Nevada Reno. The full-scale, 14-by-14-foot straw house, complete with gravel foundation and clay plaster walls—just the way she builds them in Pakistan—was subjected to 200 percent more acceleration and shaking than was recorded at the 1994 Northridge CA earthquake: the largest measured ground acceleration in the world. The straw house also survived the equivalent of the 2005 Kashmir temblor that killed 100,000 people and left 3.3 million homeless or living in tents. Buy that woman a drink.

Round 5: Here's to Hell, where the snowballs are melting. The European Space Agency reports that the Wilkins Ice Shelf is leaving its home base on the Antarctic Peninsula as the ice bridge connecting it to Charcot and Latady Islands looks set to collapse. The beginning of the demise of the ice bridge began this week when new rifts resulted in a large block of ice breaking away. Bye-bye iceberg.

Round 6: Sotally tobering.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

MIT Teams Up With the Flu to Make Batteries

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 5:16 PM PDT

You may have heard of oil-eating microbes, or microbes turning weeds into biofuels. Now, there are battery-making microbes.

A few MIT whizzes recently discovered a way to make genetically modified flu viruses help construct the anode and cathode (negative and positive) ends of re-chargeable lithium batteries.

The research team, led by MIT professors Angela Belcher, Paula Hammond, and Yet-Ming Chiang, made the virus self-assemble a host of carbon nanotubes (each one-tenth the width of a human hair) and tiny particles of iron phosphate and silver (for the cathode) or cobalt oxide and gold (for the anode) to create a network of charged nanowires, which act as active battery material.

Although the batteries are very small, they have an above average energy density, and the method could conceivably be developed to make larger batteries used in everything from portable chargers to electric cars. Belcher says that just 10 grams of the viral battery material could power an iPod for 40 hours.

Recession Lingo

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 4:58 PM PDT

When the going gets tough, the tough make up euphemisms to soften the blow.  Here are a few recession-inspired words to add to your Urban Dictionary.

In-sourcing:
when workers float through different departments in lieu of temps.

BBR: buy, burn, and return. Buying DVDs or software from a store, burning them, and then returning them for a refund.

Intaxication: euphoria when receiving a tax refund.

Wii bum: a person who has no Wii of their own, so goes over to others' houses largely to play their Wii for free.
 
Sellsumer: a consumer/entrepreneur who hawks insights and ideas to corporations to help sales.
 
TALF’d: Tricked into believing something big is going to happen when it doesn’t.

Ponzimonium: describes the recent spike in mini-Madoffs.
 
Furcation: an unpaid, forced holiday.
 
Shovel-ready: local infrastructure “ready to go” projects waiting for stimulus money.
 
Duppie: a downwordly-mobile urban professional.
 
Renoviction: when a landlord moves a tenant out during renovations and then jacks up the rent.

Keira Knightley's Domestic Abuse Ad

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 2:46 PM PDT

Public interest videos are rarely aesthetically appealing, but this one starring Keira Knightly just might buck the trend. Directed by her Atonement and Pride and Prejudice collaborator Joe Wright, the two-minute ad spot for Women's Aid features Knightly as a victim of domestic violence in a smartly shot movie-within-a-movie. You can watch it for yourself above, but suffice to say it's disturbing—and effective. I don't know much about advertising, but when a public interest ad works, it works

Spousal abuse has been especially linked with celebrity recently, so it's nice to see someone lend their time and energy to promote a solution. And the way this has made traffic around the web is testament to the power of a familiar name and some top grade directing. Well done.

TARP Funds Still MIA

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 2:11 PM PDT
The U.S. Public Interest Group has been doing an admirable job of tracking the government's failure to track what banks are doing with the billions in taxpayer dollars they've received from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Today, they circulated a nice little chart showing the status of the many alleged efforts at transparency. It's not encouraging. Here's the running tally:

Hearings on or related to the Troubled Asset Relief Program:   24
TARP Special Inspector General reports received from banks:   364
Department of Treasury requests for lending data:   21
General Accounting Office reports urging more oversight: 11
TARP oversight bills pending Congressional action:  14
TARP oversight bills passed into law so far: 0
Comprehensive accountings made to public agencies or the public to date: 0
 
USPIRG observes that "Six months, $565 billion, 24 hearings and 364 reports later, the American taxpayers still don’t know where their money has gone."

 

Should Madonna Adopt Again?

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 1:50 PM PDT
As any tabloid reader knows, Madonna is back in the African country of Malawi, where her 3-year-old adopted son, David, was born. This time she's hoping to adopt a 4-year-old girl named Mercy James, whose 18-year-old mother died shortly after giving birth. Now an American organization that promotes reform in international adoption has started a grassroots fundraising effort to keep the child in Malawi, arguing that Mercy could likely remain with extended family for less than $300 a year. While Ethica admits it doesn't have specific information about the case, its "Call to Action" argues that the child is being fast-tracked to international adoption without regard to possible alternatives. Ethica argues that kids should only be adopted internationally when:

* The child is a "true orphan" with no family (including appropriate extended family).
* The child cannot find appropriate, permanent, in-country care in a family-like setting.
* There is an established system for intercountry adoption in the country of origin.

"For every child that does not meet the three criteria above but that enters the world of intercountry adoption anyway, another child that meets these criteria waits without a home," Ethica maintains. The group is asking supporters to help raise the $2,240 they calculate would be needed for extended family to raise Mercy until she turns 14; they say that if the girl does end up being adopted, they will donate the funds to child welfare efforts in Malawi.

Mother Jones has covered international adoption extensively, most recently here and here. What do you think? Is this fundraiser a good idea? And when is international adoption appropriate--or not?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Madonna vs. Malawi, Update

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 12:10 PM PDT

In a surprising turn of events a Malawi court ruled today that Madonna will not be allowed to forgo the residency requirements to adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James. The BBC reported the judge's ruling this afternoon:

"By removing the very safeguard that is supposed to protect our children, the courts by their pronouncements could actually facilitate trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals," she said. The judge also noted that Chifundo had been placed in one of Malawi's best orphanages and no longer suffered the severe poverty endured after her mother died in childbirth.

Though Madonna wasn't concerned enough to show up in court for the final ruling, she did release a wonderfully tactful statement: "To deny Chifundo James the opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable." This afternoon the Associated Press reported that Madonna plans to file an appeal with the Malawi supreme court of appeal. If Madonna is so determined to adopt the girl, couldn't she move to Malawi, and raise Mercy and son David Banda in their homeland? Otherwise, there are plenty of places right here in the USA where she could rescue children from povertywithout breaking the law.



Fascinating Words from the Iowa Court

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 11:42 AM PDT

We've already weighed in on Iowa's legalization of gay marriage here on the mother blog and over in Kevin's space, but I wanted to add this portion of the court ruling highlighted by Marc Ambinder. Elegant, commonsensical -- it's language like this that gives confidence that more and more courts will begin to see things the same way.

We begin with the County's argument that the goal of the same-sex marriage ban is to ensure children will be raised only in the optimal milieu. In pursuit of this objective, the statutory exclusion of gay and lesbian people is both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. The civil marriage statute is under-inclusive because it does not exclude from marriage other groups of parents--such as child abusers, sexual predators, parents neglecting to provide child support, and violent felons--that are undeniably less than optimal parents. Such under-inclusion tends to demonstrate that the sexual-orientation-based classification is grounded in prejudice or "overbroad generalizations about the different talents, capacities, or preferences" of gay and lesbian people, rather than having a substantial relationship to some important objective. See Virginia, 518 U.S. at 533, 116 S. Ct. at 2275, 135 L. Ed. 2d at 751 (rejecting use of overbroad generalizations to classify). If the marriage statute was truly focused on optimal parenting, many classifications of people would be excluded, not merely gay and lesbian people.

Maybe time to rethink the argument I laid out here.

Friday Cat Blogging - 3 April 2009

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 11:41 AM PDT
Are these pictures great, or what?  They make quite a pair.  On the left, Inkblot is focused intently on a deadly laser beam (outside the frame, sadly) that was apparently smuggled into the house by SMERSH.  Needless to say, it met its match.  On the right, Domino isn't focused on anything.  She's just sacked out on the couch, wondering why Kevin keeps waking her up with that stupid big glass eye he carries around.  Humans are so weird.

Still, not a bad week for the human-in-chief, was it?  He did some good work on nuclear arms reduction, kept the peace between France and China, met the queen of England, helped broker a surprisingly good G-20 agreement, and (though this wasn't widely reported) won international support for the free flow of cat food.  Not bad for a human.

 

Quote of the Day - 4.3.09

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 11:01 AM PDT
From Barack Obama, at a meeting with bank CEOs last week:

“My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

That's what FDR said too, and the captains of industry didn't believe him either.  But he was right, and for better or worse, Obama probably is too.